The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is holding a public workshop to review its proposal to change sport fishing regulations related to striped bass. The workshop will be held Tuesday, November 8 at 7 p.m. at the Rio Vista City Hall, One Main Street in Rio Vista.
The proposal is supported by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and is intended to help recover several fish species listed under the California and federal Endangered Species Acts. The proposed changes affect the striped bass bag, size and possession limits.
The proposal will be presented to the California Fish and Game Commission for consideration at its December meeting.
Striped bass have been abundant in California waterways since they were introduced from the Atlantic Coast in the 1800s. DFG scientists believe that the striped bass population in California has numbered in the millions every year for more than a century.
California Striped bass are known and/or expected to prey on listed Chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, delta smelt, longfin smelt and tidewater goby. While the extent of striped bass predation on listed species cannot be precisely determined, the best available science indicates that the impact could be substantial.
Efforts to manage striped bass became controversial in the 1990s with the listing of Chinook salmon and delta smelt under the state and federal Endangered Species Acts and have remained controversial ever since. To address concerns about winter-run Chinook salmon, DFG temporarily stopped stocking striped bass in 1990. DFG worked until 1999 to receive federal permits from the USFWS and NOAA Fisheries to begin stocking striped bass again, and in 2000 suspended all stocking to address concerns about several listed fish species in the Central Valley.
Controversy over striped bass management peaked in 2008 when the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta sued DFG under the federal Endangered Species Act, seeking to require the department to apply for federal permits to enforce one of the fishing regulations that limits sport harvest of striped bass. Both as part of a settlement agreement and as a result of continuing work by USFWS, NOAA Fisheries and DFG to recover the listed species, DFG and the federal agencies developed the proposal to modify striped bass fishing regulations in an effort to reduce striped bass predation on the listed species.
Although the amount of impact attributable to striped bass predation is not certain, DFG strongly suspects that the impact can be reduced by the proposed regulations. With the proposed changes, striped bass would likely become somewhat less abundant and the average size of striped bass would decline, but fishing effort and fishing success would likely increase for a period of at least several years.
DFG is also recommending an adaptive management plan that will help assess how the new regulations influence the fishery.